David Amerland

Personalized search is beginning to creep in plus the changing way of how content is really found

The web is a place where grown men break down and cry and kids fresh out of school walk away owning banks and flying in Leer jets. This ability to upset the status quo and present the new and fresh to the masses has created an impetus which still drives our economy.

The entire point of the web has been about personalization from the very beginning. The moment, back in ’95 those strident handshake modem tones were struck and we saw our first website we were hooked on the fact that now we could do just about anything in the small hours of the morning in our PJs.

As you probably guessed what’s exciting to us as surfers is nightmare for the average online marketer and, when it comes to ourselves owning and running a website the dichotomy between what we like on the web and what makes us lose sleep at night becomes even greater.

If personalized search is the greatest virtual development since Tamagotchis it’s good to understand why. Right now, the ‘money’, so to speak, on the web is in search. As a website owner you know you need traffic. Traffic means eyeballs (and clicking fingers) which then produces sales, subscribers, advertising revenue visitors and so on.

As a webmaster you are trying your hardest (and I hope, at this stage you have spent some time reading my book on SEO) to attract as many people as possible because traffic is the payload. This means Google and Google search and online optimization (all those nerdy little metrics which have now become part of our daily online vocabulary) are only valid to work with as long as the online population still employs search in order to find what they are looking for.

Search, however, is beginning to lose its value as the main tool for driving targeted traffic to a website. The increased prominence of social networking tools such as Facebook and Twitter which deliver more content than Google has begun to take the shine off standard optimization practices. That, however, has not radically changed SEO. No, it simply has expanded its sphere of activities to transform it from something which was relatively nerdy and code driven to something which is now cooler and more strategy-based and which can be implemented by almost anyone without the knowledge of programming.

The integration of social marketing in the way websites find their visitors has also meant that webmasters cannot, these days, think of traffic coming from just one source. Irrespective of how hard it is to work this, the good news has always been that there are things you can do as a webmaster to get traffic to your site. After all, users rely on a channel and that channel can be gamed.

Personalized search affects search engine results

Now this is where things get a little tricky. Personalized search is a service which Google first rolled out to users who were signed into their Google Account, back in 2009. At the time it took into account their web history (which needed to have been enabled) and preferences and the way they used the web and changed the search results so that the random factor in them dropped off and a sense of personalization and preferences crept in.

So far so good because random search which brought up slightly less shaped results and made it more likely that your new, perfectly optimized website would pop-up was still active.

Then Google changed the game plan by offering personalized search to those who were not signed in to their accounts. The video below explains a little of what was going through their minds when they decided to spoil the sleeping patterns of webmasters and SEOs.

Of course, personalized search can still be gamed provided you have worked hard on your social marketing, have a strong presence in Twitter and, where your target audience is concerned, you are also ubiquitous in their world.

The latest salvo in personalized search comes from Evernote which is, essentially, a glorified, take-with-you pagemarking service and which has just announced a seamless integration with Google Chrome to personalize the search results even more. This is not bad news for webmasters (yet) but it’s not good either. To break it down into plain English, search for the end user has now become multi-layered: results are served according to their web history, their social networking habits and their own saved preferences. Unless you, as a webmaster, are really savvy with all this (or have an SEO who is) then your standard, tried-and-tested, on-page optimization is not going to get you very far.

Personalized search is not the cause. It is a symptom of an ever fragmenting need for search brought about by the increased personalization of the web (another classic example of this change is the shift to real-time marketing and real-time eCommerce which is gradually happening).

Unless you are ‘there’ so that you can be noticed, can become a part of someone’s web history and preferences the chances of your site being found are slim indeed.

So take note. Make sure your content strategy does not consist of: “Tuesday, need to put 300 words on my site today” and do the hard work required to create a multi-layered, integrated, social marketing orientated exposure of your website and its content.

Then, maybe, you might be able to return to those six hours sleep a night of old.

 

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